It was with great sadness when I boarded my plane out of Kuala Lumpur after traveling for seven weeks in Southeast Asia. This is a region that I was never quite interested in visiting. Growing up in Hong Kong, I always felt that Southeast Asia was boring, backwards, dirty and quite similar to Hong Kong. I have since learned that one cannot judge a place unless one has visited it.
I have grown fond of Southeast Asia, despite the long and uncomfortable bus rides, the air pollution, the loudness and the dirty bathrooms. This is region with warm people, delicious food, beautiful temples, lush jungles, pristine beaches and diverse wildlife. If one takes the time to explore, Southeast Asia can be a very relaxing place to stay or live.
My favorite country is clearly Malaysia, with Singapore in second. Of all the countries I have traveled to so far, I have never felt as comfortable as I did in Malaysia. Malaysia felt like home the moment I arrived (especially Penang). The Chinese there were extremely friendly and the CouchSurfers and I were like old friends, fighting for the restaurant bill at times! (This is a Chinese “custom.”) Every dish that I tried was delicious. In fact, I was always planning what to eat next! In addition to the familiar Chinese culture, I also appreciate the cultural diversity and harmony in Malaysia. I believe the Malays and Indians add “spice” to life, through their festivals, customs and food. Because of this, Malaysian food is my favorite in Southeast Asia. Lastly, I like the fact that Malaysia has historical cities, rainforests, mountains, beaches and wildlife. There is so much to do in this compact country! Furthermore, there is little hassling and overcharging of foreigners.
Thus, I am certain that I will be back in Malaysia and in Singapore. One visit is definitely not enough!